Affirmative Action in Higher Education: Good or Bad?

A year ago today I would have been sitting in the dining room at home filling out college applications. I would have been sitting there thinking about how close I was and how excited I was. I would have been oblivious to one thing that looking back, maybe I should have been curious about. Every college application makes a clear point of making sure the applicant states their race and ethnicity. Why is this important? Affirmative action in higher education.

If you don’t know what affirmative action is, listen to this podcast to find out and better understand where this policy comes from.

Today there is an ongoing argument on whether the race-based affirmative action in higher education used in higher education is good or bad. There are supporters who think this policy is fair and justified, and there are people against it who believe the policy is unfair and unjustified.

Those who support affirmative action are those who see it to be making a difference and those who see it as an effective way to increase diversity in universities. According to the National Conference of State legislatures website, supporters believe that affirmative action is “more of a process than just an admissions policy.” They also believe that those who graduated after benefiting from affirmative action are living better lives and are more successful because of it. It is also said that according to supporters having diversity in universities produces an advantage educationally for all students.

This is a picture of people protesting to gain support for affirmative action.

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Those who are against affirmative action according to a U.S. History website believe affirmative action is unfair in that it creates a “reverse discrimination.” They believe the process is not only unconstitutional but also that it is illegal under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans any discrimination based on race, color, and national origin. In addition, according to supporters these policies cause the standards to drop and do not necessarily help the students struggling economically.

This is a tweet about affirmative action and how it is taken by those against it.

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I can see both sides to this argument. It is important to have diversity in higher education; it does provide an advantage. However, I can also see how this policy can be unfair. “Reverse discrimination” is a bit extreme, however it also makes a point; while it helps the minority, affirmative action is discriminating against the majority.

There are universities which have already dropped affirmative action, they have dropped the policy and managed to still keep the diversity at their school. This shows that maybe affirmative action is unnecessary, or that at least race based affirmative action is. This also sparks the conversation of changing the policy, the book Race, Class, and Affirmative Action by Alon Sigal discusses class-based affirmative action, maybe this is the new way to go.

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